Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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Why the Mueller Report Is Causing ‘Breakdown-Level’ Stress Among White House Staff

Cliff Owen/AP/REX/Shutterstock More than qualifications, more than intelligence, more than a Rolodex filled with Russian oligarchs, President Trump values loyalty. It’s also why the current and former White House staff members are reportedly worried about what may be revealed when a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is released to the public on Thursday. According to NBC News, more than a dozen officials who cooperated with Mueller’s investigation are concerned they will be outed as a source of information that hurts the president. A former White House official said there is concern among staff that “the wrath” of Trump and his allies “will follow” if they are revealed to have provided the special counsel with information that doesn’t reflect well on Trump, particularly regarding his potential obstruction of justice. “You have a whole bunch of former White House officials and current White House officials, but especially former White House officials, who were told to cooperate,” said the former official. The redaction guidelines he later outlined in a letter to congressional leaders were vague as well. Last September, in the wake of a highly publicized op-ed in which an anonymous staffer detailed the lengths the administration goes to prevent Trump from destroying the country, Axios reported that the president had grown increasingly paranoid about the trustworthiness of his underlings, and even carried around a handwritten list of suspected leakers. “We’ve gotta get rid of them,'” a source close to Trump quoted him as saying. On Sunday, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported that the White House is worried about what McGahn, who sat down with Mueller’s team for at least 30 hours, may have told the special counsel about the president’s potential obstruction of justice, particularly regarding his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. According to Karl, the White House never debriefed McGahn, who left the administration last October, about what he told the special counsel’s office.

Officials rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but were overruled

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner's application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. Kushner's was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top-secret clearance, Kushner's file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI. The sources say the CIA has not granted Kushner clearance to review SCI material. "What you are reporting is what all of us feared," said Brad Moss, a lawyer who represents persons seeking security clearances. They say he overruled career bureaucrats at least 30 times, granting top-secret clearances to officials in the Executive Office of the President or the White House after adjudicators working for him recommended against doing so. Following the FBI investigation, the case went back to the White House office of personnel security, where a career adjudicator reviewed the FBI information, including questions about foreign influence and foreign business entanglements, the sources said. The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, reported last February that officials in at least four countries had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience. Sources also told NBC News career employees of the White House office disagreed with other steps Kline took, including ceasing credit checks on security clearance applicants. Newbold raised concerns about Kline's behavior with her second level supervisor regarding his "hostility and integrity," according to the EEOC complaint.

Trump Offers Pelosi $130,000 to Keep Quiet

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an indication that he has reached his breaking point with the Speaker of the House, Donald J. Trump is offering a hundred and thirty thousand dollars to keep Nancy Pelosi quiet, White House aides confirmed on Thursday. According to those aides, Trump floated the idea of a six-figure payment to silence Pelosi during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night, in which he asserted that he had done “a million of these deals.” Trump’s effort to mute Pelosi faces a number of obstacles, however, including the fact that the person who has crafted such agreements for Trump in the past, Michael Cohen, is not available to perform such a service now. Additionally, any agreement to silence Pelosi could face constitutional hurdles, since one of Pelosi’s principal duties as Speaker is to speak. At the Capitol, Pelosi said that she would reject Trump’s proposed payment and added that she would offer him no money whatsoever to prevent him from delivering this year’s State of the Union address. “I am asking for an hour of silence from Donald Trump, and you can’t put a price tag on that,” she said.

Political pressure leaves little room for resolving shutdown

As the third government shutdown of President Donald Trump’s tenure stretched into its 19th day, political pressures on Trump and the Democrats have left little room for compromise in the standoff over funding for a border wall. Each side appeared dug in even deeper after a White House meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders on Wednesday as the economic livelihoods of some 800,000 federal workers hang in the balance. Trump’s focus now is squarely on his conservative base and its support for the wall that came to symbolize Trump’s promise for a hard-line, unrelenting approach to immigration. Falwell said he has told Trump he’s doing the right thing. Officials maintain the issue is a political winner, though they have urged the president to be more aggressive in making his case to the public — and to any wavering Republican lawmakers. Trump on Wednesday acknowledged the political pressure from within his own party not to back down. The second ones would be the House. At the same time, 86 percent of Republicans backed the proposal. Both party leaders on the Hill and the handful of presidential hopefuls starting to compete for the Democratic nomination have called on Democrats to hold strong. Republican pollster Frank Luntz suggested there would be little political price to pay for those associated with the extended government shutdown, which is just days away from becoming the longest in U.S. history — even if most Americans blame Trump and his party.

Trump addresses the nation, Democrats respond

Democrats, of course, have voted for border security funds just not for the wall the President wants. Trump wrongly claims Democrats won't fund border security President Trump claimed that "the federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.” It’s not true that Democrats oppose funding for border security, they just aren't willing to meet Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion in wall funding. Border security has been a cornerstone of Democratic immigration proposals for years. House Democrats voted last week to approve a stop-gap funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would not allocate new wall funding, but would maintain the current $1.3 billion in border security money. President Trump claimed tonight that, "At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall." In border argument, Trump misleadingly claims drugs will kill more Americans than Vietnam President Trump claimed "more Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War." The only drug that is smuggled in higher numbers between legal entry points is marijuana, according to information from Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration. President Trump claimed that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past." However, as long as the government remains shutdown, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have refused to offer any funding for a border barrier. According to data from Doctors Without Borders, 68.3 percent of migrants and refugees "entering Mexico reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the United States," and nearly one-third of women said they'd been sexually abused.

White House staffers admonished for posting political tweets

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six former and current White House staffers were reprimanded Friday for posting political tweets, such as the campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" and "MAGA," on Twitter accounts they use for government business. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent warning letters to the six warning them that their tweets violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of federal employees working in the executive branch. The special counsel's office sent a five-page summary of its findings to CREW on Friday. In his tweet, he included a link to an RNC webpage that outlined RNC research on what Trump accomplished in his first 500 days in office. Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, violated the Hatch Act when she used her official "@VPPressSec" Twitter account to post two messages that included "#MAGA." One in May 2018 said: "This is what #MAGA looks like: Under @POTUS TRUMP, the unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 17 years." MAGA is short for Make America Great Again. The four others cited for violations were: Madeleine Westerhout, executive assistant to the president; Jacob Wood, deputy communications director of the Office of Management and Budget; Jessica Ditto, White House deputy director of communications; and Helen Aguirre Ferre, former special assistant to the president and director of media affairs. This isn't the first time that Trump administration officials have run afoul of the Hatch Act. CREW filed a complaint in that case too, and Scavino was warned if he engages in such activity in the future, the office will consider it a "willful and knowing violation of the law."

White House staffers admonished for posting political tweets

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six former and current White House staffers were reprimanded Friday for posting political tweets, such as the campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" and "MAGA," on Twitter accounts they use for government business. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent warning letters to the six warning them that their tweets violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of federal employees working in the executive branch. The special counsel's office sent a five-page summary of its findings to CREW on Friday. In his tweet, he included a link to an RNC webpage that outlined RNC research on what Trump accomplished in his first 500 days in office. Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, violated the Hatch Act when she used her official "@VPPressSec" Twitter account to post two messages that included "#MAGA." One in May 2018 said: "This is what #MAGA looks like: Under @POTUS TRUMP, the unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 17 years." MAGA is short for Make America Great Again. The four others cited for violations were: Madeleine Westerhout, executive assistant to the president; Jacob Wood, deputy communications director of the Office of Management and Budget; Jessica Ditto, White House deputy director of communications; and Helen Aguirre Ferre, former special assistant to the president and director of media affairs. This isn't the first time that Trump administration officials have run afoul of the Hatch Act. CREW filed a complaint in that case too, and Scavino was warned if he engages in such activity in the future, the office will consider it a "willful and knowing violation of the law."

Trump insists daughter Ivanka’s private email use for work was ‘very innocent’

Donald Trump has doubled down on his claim that his daughter Ivanka’s use of private email in her government role was “very innocent”. Ivanka's emails: sins of the daughter threaten to hit Trump where it hurts Read more The Washington Post reported on Monday that Ivanka Trump sent “hundreds” of emails from her personal account to cabinet officials and White House aides, as well as to personal assistants. As many as 100 such mails pertained to government business, the paper said. Scores more related to scheduling. Play Video 1:02 While the New York Times reported in September 2017 that at least six White House staffers including Ivanka had used private email accounts, the Post said its reporters were the first to reveal the extent of such use. Trump said Ivanka’s private email use had been “very innocent”, over a “short period of time, very early on”. The first figure mentioned by the president was a reference to the number of Clinton emails known to have been deleted, some of which were personal messages later recovered by the FBI. “There was no anything, just innocent emails,” he continued, adding: “There were no classified emails. It’s another fake news story.” “And she did transition out. A spokesman for Ivanka’s private lawyer said in a statement “she did not create a private server in her house or office, there was never classified information transmitted, the account was never transferred or housed at Trump Organization, no emails were ever deleted and the emails have been retained in the official account in conformity with records preservation laws and rules”.

Trump White House lawyer cooperates with Russia investigation – report

“The president and Don have a great relationship,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Saturday. Trump subsequently tweeted his own response to the report, writing: “I allowed White House counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House staff, to fully cooperate with the special councel [sic]. In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. McGahn cooperated with Robert Mueller’s team as a regular witness, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, as the White House asked many staffers to do. The person also said he did not believe McGahn provided Mueller with incriminating information about Trump. McGahn provided the facts but nothing he saw or heard amounted to obstruction of justice by Trump, the person told Reuters. The newspaper reported McGahn’s motivation to speak with the special counsel as an unusual move in response to a decision by Trump’s first team of lawyers to cooperate fully. But it also said McGhan feared he could be placed in legal jeopardy because of decisions in the White House that could be construed as obstruction of justice. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment.

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Amorphous Tapes

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey) Today in 5 Lines President Trump escalated his attacks against former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her a “dog” on Twitter. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she “can’t guarantee” that Trump has never used a racial slur after Manigault Newman claimed Trump is on tape using the N-word. Defense lawyers for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort rested without calling any witnesses in his fraud trial. Closing arguments for the trial are expected to begin on Wednesday morning. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a report listing more than 300 clergy members accused of sexual abuse, and identifying at least 1,000 child victims. Two people were injured after a car plowed into the gates of the United Kingdom’s Parliament. London’s Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident as a possible act of terrorism. The Races We’re Watching Voters in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are heading to the polls for their primary elections. In Minnesota, Republicans see opportunities to take back several seats, including the governor’s mansion: Former Governor Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson are vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. On the Democratic side, former Republican staffer and political pundit Richard Painter is challenging incumbent Senator Tina Smith.